“More Change…and the Sovereignty of God
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”Psalm 33:10-11
When I first arrived here at FBCW some 16 months ago I wrote about change in another Body Builder article. Here is what I said: “Change. Some people like it, some people don’t. Some consider it a blessing, some a curse. Some see it as something exciting, some see it as something dreaded. Some see new possibilities, others see their world falling apart. Regardless of whichever way you see it, change is a reality of life.” There are also often many “realities of life” that we don’t particularly care for; things that happen that we dread or dislike; things that are painful or disheartening; job trials and relationship woes; trials and sufferings and even things we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Yet throughout every circumstance of life, positive or negative, there is a great truth of God that we can cling to and when properly understood, is like medicine to our soul and healing to our bones and that is the “sovereignty of God.” As God’s created beings in His created universe, the sovereignty of God means that He is 100% completely in control over all aspects of His creation, including His “big picture” plans for the universe, earth and all of mankind as well as His control over the daily affairs of each of our lives. Author Jerry Bridges in his book Trusting God described the essence of God’s sovereignty this way: “His absolute independence to do as He pleases and His absolute control over the actions of all His creatures. No creature, person or empire can either thwart His will or act outside the bounds of His will.” -Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, (Colorado Springs, CO.: Navpress, 2008), p. 34.
Understanding this doctrine should give all of us enormous amounts of encouragement and relief, especially in light of the “bad” things that seem to go on around us or when issues of undesired or unwanted change occur. For many, the recent political election has become one such situation. Many have desired a certain outcome, not only for the presidency, but also for congressional seats, state propositions and local issues of government. Now if you’re on the side that won, you’re probably very happy and content with God’s sovereignty, but if you find yourself on the other side of the fence, you may be struggling in your acceptance of what God has decreed. “Decreed?” you ask. “Does God really decree or decide who our government leaders will be?” Paul, while speaking of the governing authorities in Rom 13:1 answers this question with a “yes” saying, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Peter affirms this same principle in 1 Peter 2:13-14 with these words,“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” I don’t have enough time here to show you the many facets of each of these verses and the other immediate texts surrounding each (especially Romans 13) but I will note that both make the case for government being there to protect the innocent and law abiding and to punish those “evildoers” that aren’t. Of course, as I recently noted in my sermon on Government, Politics and the Christian (11-2-08), this doesn’t always happen. There have been many cases throughout human history where evil and despotic kings, queens, dictators, presidents, etc. have risen up into power and authority over people and yet when we go back to the Scriptures (read all of Rom. 13:1-7 or listen to the recent sermon online or get the sermon CD) we find that God says we are to submit ourselves even to these. The Roman government that provides the context for both Paul and Peter’s writings was some of the most evil you will find. But let us get back to the ‘decreed aspect or the notion that God does indeed either ‘allow’ certain people to come to power or ‘appoint’ certain people to their positions in government, even those that go against Him and His commands, mandates and principles as set forth in His Word, the Bible. Jesus, while speaking to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, said “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above (John 19:11)” and Lamentations 3:37-38 has Jeremiah asking, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?” So again we see that God is sovereignly in control over the authority of such leaders as well as even controlling those who speak and do evil, the “good and the ill.” Yet, in the case of those leaders and governments that do go against Biblical commands, mandates or principles, we still might want to ask why would God put them into power? Here are four things to consider: 1) Remember it was man and not God, who, because of man’s sin and God’s punishment of that sin, invited sin into the world for all time (Rom. 5:12). 2) God can either allow or cause these things to happen because of His sovereignty and the fact that He has a plan for all of human history knowing the “end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). In other words,God sees the big picture and the glory He will get from it (even in cases of evil), we don’t. 3) Also having to do with His sovereignty, Rom. 8:28 tells us that God will cause all things to happen for good to those who love Him. Meaning, whether things in our lives or the world seem bad or negative, ultimately, good will come out of it for the true believer of Jesus Christ. So believers need not fear even the most tyrannical of rulers or situations. 4) God will use all things to bring Himself glory (Is. 43:7), even evil governments (Is. 66:18). Sometimes God will receive even more glory from an evil government. Remember the persecution of the Israelites by Pharaoh and the Egyptians and how God glorified Himself and took care of the people in the process? Or how about the story of Nebuchadnezzar with Daniel and his three friends and the glory that came to God because of the wickedness in the government and what God did through it? So what’s our reaction to be when things don’t really go the way we would like them to go, even issues of politics and government? We need to fall back and rest ourselves on God’s sovereignty; on the fact that He is absolutely in control of all things and that we can trust that all things will work out for the Christian’s good and God’s ultimate glory. Consider and meditate on the following verses having to do with God’s sovereignty: Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.Isaiah 14:27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?
Psalm 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. James 4:15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” During my recent “Government, Politics and the Christian” sermon, I asked this question concerning the sovereignty of God in light of the very historic presidential election that would happen two days later: “How does the sovereignty of God affect how a Christian views government and politics in general, including voting and elections?” Here was my response: “Lastly, but just as important in this discussion is to have a proper understanding ofGod’s sovereignty in regards to our world, and certainly with government and politics. To say that God is sovereign, is to say, as the Scriptures do, that God is in complete control of all things; He has ordained the beginning of time from the end; He is in control of the good and the bad; He allows and even orchestrates government, it’s leaders and it’s laws – even in those cases that we don’t agree and yet even in those times He still always work things for the good of the believer and His ultimate glory. “When things in the world don’t seem to be going in a very favorable direction as far as you are concerned, that is not a time to grow worried, become anxious, get stressed out, become fearful or let dread and pessimism become the rule of your life. Rather, it is a time to rejoice because you know that even in these times God is still ruling over, reigning in and is 100% completely in control of, not just the world, the country, the government and its leaders, but He is also completely in control over your individual lives as well.
“Do we want things to go downhill in our country and world; do we want them to go from bad to worse? Of course not, but as we are living in the last days, God has told us this is exactly what will happen (2 Tim. 3; Eph. 5:16)! Praise Him that He told us this and has told us everything else we need to know about these end times! Praise Him that His plan for this earth and all of human history along with His eternal plan will be accomplished! That being said, be involved in government and politics and most definitely vote but remember that God is ultimately the one in control and there’s nothing we or anyone else (good or bad) can do to thwart that plan. “So go and vote the day after tomorrow and don’t worry, fret or be anxious but instead, give God glory. Praise Him for the outcome, no matter which candidate wins because He has decreed it. King David petitioned and prayed for God to spare the life of His infant son and when God said no and the boy died, did David shake his fist and curse God? Was he angry with God over God’s decision? Did he fall apart with grief, despair and hopelessness? No. What does the Bible say He did at that point? “David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped(2 Sam. 12:20).” He worshipped God even though God had taken the life of little baby! How could David do this? Because he completely trusted in God’s sovereignty over the affairs of his life, and knew that any decision from God was a just and righteous one, and also that God would do what was best for David’s good and God’s glory. “And so it should be with us. Two days from now if the candidate that you wanted to win doesn’t or the proposition that you wanted to pass fails, still fall to your knees and praise and worship God who is sovereign and completely in control and give Him glory because He has decreed this outcome for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lord who “has established His throne in the heavens” and whose “sovereignty rules over all (Ps. 103:19);” who sits on His holy throne reigning over the nations (Ps. 47:8), who raises up governments and leaders and brings them down and the One“who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).” So on Tuesday, no matter the outcome, what are we all going to do? That’s right, praise and worship God!” Now here we are, a few days later with a new president-elect and new congressional leaders and even some new propositions and local leaders, so what should the Christian’s‘ method of operation’ be? I think 1 Timothy 2:1-3 sums it up best, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 forkings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Pray for our new president and those he will bring along with him and remember that now is not a time for us to separate ourselves as republicans and democrats but rather as RudolphGiuliani pointed out post-election in this paraphrase, “We are all Americans…who need to support and help our new president because if he fails, our whole country fails”…but only if our sovereign God has decreed it!